New York City has often been referred to as its own major character in the series Sex and the City. While I don’t agree, the importance of New York to the series cannot be denied. New York—any city—has an impact on its denizens, shaping them to fit the existing culture within its borders. To move to a new area, not as a tourist or transient figure, but as a settler, is to assume the customs and lifestyle of one’s neighbors that are necessary to survive and maneuver efficiently. If not, problems quickly occur. For example, Brooklyn-born, the excessive socialization required amongst strangers while in Atlanta is still disconcerting. Privacy and solitude are at a premium in New York and are not to be relinquished without great reluctance.
Good fiction requires cities to have their own cultures as well. The character of a region is shown by how the landscape and structures are depicted. It is also reflected in the temperament and appearance of its citizens. For these reasons, team-ups and crossovers must be created with care. Unless the “hook” of a tale is to show a “fish out of water,” a mish-mash of incompatible worlds and characters is confusing and distasteful to the reader. One cannot build the foundation of a good story on earth that is not firm.
Seemingly rebroadcast at least once yearly, the crossover between Homicide: Life on the Street and Law and Order is fantastic. Both worlds are clearly defined, and characters from both series find themselves as strangers in a strange land. Another tactic that works is to simply create a new world for all the characters in question. This has been successfully executed repeatedly in comics, the Amalgam universe (depicting blended versions of Marvel and DC characters) likely being the most lucrative example.
With DC Entertainment’s New 52 initiative, the DC, Wildstorm, and Milestone universes have been folded into one world. As a former fan of Wildstorm and Milestone characters, the development is frustrating. It is frustrating because I do not feel that a new world was developed that was hospitable to all characters; Milestone and Wildstorm characters were simply plugged into the DC universe. The number of Milestone characters appearing has been minimal, so a fish-out-of-water approach could have been successfully taken with Static and Xombi. However, given the sheer volume of Wildstorm characters inserted and the incompatibility of the former DC and Wildstorm universes—one an idealistic place with nearly black and white depictions of good and evil, the other a more sinister place with various shades of gray—results have been dreadful. DC fans have largely ignored Wildstorm characters. Wildstorm fans, given a strange world that in no way exploited already weakened nostalgic ties, had no reason to stay. I am apprehensive about what will occur should more Milestone characters make an appearance.
DC’s recreation of Earth 2, a world that could have easily been shaped to fit Wildstorm and Milestone characters, is essentially the existing DC universe with different characters plugged in. The culture remains the same—charmingly idealistic. In contrast, Marvel’s Ultimate universe began as a world that was much darker and cynical in nature compared to the existing Marvel universe. As of now, the two Marvel worlds are largely similar, and a large event featuring a rebooted world containing the most popular characters and concepts from both would work fabulously—though given fan resistance to change, it would probably be best to test the waters with a temporary revision akin to Age of Apocalypse.
But, uh, back to the lecture at hand: how does DC solve the problem of compatibility? There are three options: remove the Wildstorm characters from the DC universe; alter the Wildstorm characters to fit the DC universe; present the Wildstorm characters as part of DC’s underground, an off-the-grid assemblage of cynical characters largely not in contact with DC’s icons.
I’m curious to see which path DC decides to choose.